Sunday, 19 December 2010


I decided it would be interesting to interview some of our members and publish it on our blog. What better time to interview the circle’s chairperson, Hilary Mackelden, when she is marooned in her home due to the snow. But she’s not complaining. Having been rescued by some kind hearted souls when she got stuck out in the wild Sussex countryside, home is now a very good place to be.

Hilary, when did you start writing?

I actually started writing when I was 8 years old. School reports make mention of my short stories and original poetry. But I didn't try script writing until August 2001, when the lady who ran the drama group at Church had a yen to put on a community version of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Since she knew I wrote for the church magazine, she thought I could write the play, because, after all, writing is writing is writing. Right? Right! I rose to the challenge, wrote the script, found I liked doing it and went from there. I've now completed 27 stage plays (some better than others, lol) about 100 short sketches, and 5 full length screenplays.

What inspired you?

My father. He taught me to read aged 3, and he taught me a love of books, films, plays etc. When I discovered my love for writing, I wanted to be a credit to him, which inspired me to study, do my apprenticeship, work harder and reach my fullest potential. Alas he died in 1990, so never saw my successes. I dedicated my first published play to him, and even today, I find myself thinking, "Would Dad think this was any good?"

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Is it all right to have two?

1. Never give up. Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. Winston Churchill said that, and he was right.

and 2, which comes from 1 really. Always have another project you're working on. While the first piece is out with agents and publishers, always be writing the next. That way, when they say, "Don't like this piece but like your writing, have you got anything else?" you'll be able to say yes. Which was how I got my first sale.

Do you have a writing routine or do you only write when the creative juices flow?

I try to have a routine, though it's more of a guideline really. I try to be at my writing desk by 10am (after I've checked emails etc) and write through till 1pm. I break for lunch, walk the dog, which is usually a great chance to mull ideas over and sort them out in my head, before coming back and doing more writing in the late afternoon. If I'm not too tired, I'll carry on into the evening, especially if I have a deadline. I do this, appointments and family willing, six days a week.

However, if the muse is nagging, I will sit up and write all night.

Who are your writing heroes/heroines and why?

Harold Pinter and Arthur Miller. Both had an absolute mastery of the English language, and knew how to use the simplest words, and even pauses, to devastating effect. Plus, both had the courage of their convictions and were willing to stand up for what they believed was right.

I also like Alan Bennett, who can turn the mundane into gold, and Willy Russell, who is a very generous man. He taught me, and he was caring, willing to give his time and attention, constructive in his criticism and had a knack of putting right your flaws in such a way he made you believe the suggestions came from you. And such boundless energy!

I'm also in awe of my friend, Rebecca Lenkiewics. She knows what she wants and she goes after it, and yet she's nice and not in the least ruthless. Two years ago, she became the first living woman playwright to have a work performed at the Olivier Theatre, with the play "Her Naked Skin".

If you were to meet one of your characters, who would you like it to be and why?

This answer really changes from work to work, I suppose, since I would always love to meet the main characters of whatever I am working on. But if I had to choose just one, I'd go for Charles Wesley. A few years ago, I wrote a screenplay about John Newton, the man who wrote Amazing Grace, and Charles Wesley came into the story. As I researched, and then wrote him, I really liked the man. He seemed to be like a favourite uncle, the type you'd gravitate towards. His brother John struck me as cold and rigid, Newton himself could be confrontational, George Whitefield seemed a prig, but Charles Wesley was lovely.

What are your goals?

To sell a screenplay in the next twelve months, and to make my entire living from my writing.

In what ways do you benefit from being part of the writers' circle?

The main benefits, from my point of view, are the feedback and constructive criticism I get at the workshops, and the friendship, almost fellowship, with like minded people. The feedback is highly valued by me, and often makes my work immeasurably better. For example, in December's script group, I received some advice on the way my screenplay was structured. I've followed that advice and the script has improved dramatically. In a novel workshop once, someone said one of my male characters sounded like a woman. I mulled that over and within 24 hours I had changed the character into a woman, which created a whole new sub plot and deepened the story.

The friends I've made at the circle are people whose opinions I respect, and with whom I can be myself. They understand the obsession with writing, the dream of making it my job.

Other benefits I've received include the chance to meet many interesting and admirable people, both members and guest speakers. I've met and gleaned valuable tips from Mills and Boon writers, agents, playwrights, novelists such as Jonathan Gash (author of Lovejoy), to mention just a few. And I've had the chance to learn from members such as Rhona Martin and the late Anne Worboys. You can't buy that kind of opportunity.

What is on your Santa wish list?

Health and happiness for my family and friends, and the ability to get my son Steve home before the big day. It would be nice if ALL children could have a wonderful and happy Christmas, no matter who or where they are. I'd also like to see our website up and running very shortly, and an increased membership for the circle over the next few months. And, of course, if he could gift wrap a contract for one of my screenplays, I'd be over the moon.

If the Christmas Fairy waved her magic wand what would you wish for?

It would have to be that a Hollywood headline actor read and liked my script and wanted to be in it. The ultimate compliment for a writer is that an actor wants to do their script, rather than they just want a part in any movie and this will do, and having a name attached obviously increases a script's chances of getting made.

You are marooned in the snow on a top of a mountain - what five things would you take with you?

Thermally insulated tent with all the equipment.
Ice resistant pens and paper, enough to last till I was rescued.
My Bible and Bible reading notes.
Food and drink.
Am I allowed George Clooney?

Finish the following ---- Martha made her way to the bottom of the garden. Pushing through the bushes she came into a clearing. She bent down and began to dig .............

with her bare hands at the disturbed earth in the centre. Beads of soil flew past her, rattling as they landed on the hard ground behind her. At first, she made little progress; each time she scooped soil from the ground, more would trickle from the sides of the hole to fill the gap, but after several minutes of frantic clawing, the ground in front of her began to open up until she hit the damp soil underneath. The earthy smell filled her nostrils and clogged her throat, making breathing difficult, and her fingers stiffened in mud gloves but still she burrowed. Her knees stung and her back ached and her eyes smarted and still she dug down, down, down, until she had to lean into the hole to reach the bottom.

She stopped and straightened and fought the urge to cry. "It has to be here," she whispered.



Eldridge Publishing (America)
If We Had Only Known (Adult Christmas Play)
Ashdown Lee (community drama)
Beyond Redemption (Adult Easter Play)
Life Support (Adult Christmas Play)

Lazy Bee Publishing (UK)
Sammy (Small cast Drama)
Price of Firewood (Small cast Drama)
Devil in the Detail (small cast comedy/drama)
The Pied Piper (Panto)
The Three Musketeers (Panto)
Rumpelstiltskin (Panto)
Ahmed and the Mummy (Panto)
Pilgrim's Progress (Community Drama)
Some sketches for Church services.

You can actually see a list of all Hilary's stage plays at

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